Sunday, 8 November 2009

South Africa holiday advice needed..

As we move into winter the Sock moves into holiday planning, her favourite way of casting off the S.A.D. with fantasies of warmer climes and happier times. The Sock is thinking about a few weeks in South Africa next August/September flying to Cape Town and taking in Hermanus for whale watching etc. and the garden route and winelands and ending with a wild life safari around the Port Elizabeth area. This is a very rough initial plan.

Does anyone have any recommendations of must sees and do's? Places to stay, reading material etc.

What the Socks like

Wildlife and nature reserves
Photography -landscape, wildlife, plants and gardens
Food and wine although not necessarily fine-dining a seafood shack will do as well
Beaches and swimming (although the Bedsock doesn't do sharks)
A bit of culture and museums

What the Socks don't like

Family oriented places
Golf courses
Spiders, snakes, sharks, biting insects
Roughing it - done that and now we're too old to be sleeping on the beach

The Sock is particularly interested in seeing places like Namaqualand which is "dry, rocky and desert-like for the rest of the year, but yields its floral wealth for a short few weeks in the spring in dazzling sheets of colour." We will be there at the right time of year but Namaqualand isn't on our envisaged route.

All ideas gratefully received.


Unknown said...

Hi Arabella,

No recommendations here just pure jealousy! lol!

Really hope you have a great time and I look forward to reading your blogs on your return!


Arabella Sock said...

Ha ha! You haven't got rid of me yet, Ryan. We aren't going until next August/September but one of the best bits of holidays is the planning so I start early. Let's hope my blog is still going by then!

Rob said...

No recommendations here either (other than take me in your suitcase!).

South Africa is next on my hit list, but it will probably be next winter that I'll go. I will be following the responses here and the blogs after your holiday intently...

janerowena said...

I don't think you need to worry too much about namaqualand, friends from SA have told me that in the spring practically every grass verge is flooded with their version of the primrose - agapanthuses and crocosmias in particular.

Brochures of cornish cottages don't lift my SAD at all, strangely!

Arabella Sock said...

Oh Jro.. brochures of Cornish Cottages would certainly make me feel better. We usually hole up in a cottage (with mandatory log fire) somewhere for Christmas in order to escape everything. Not so this year as we don't won't to leave the kitten for too long in case he trashes the house.

This time last year we were in Australia enjoying the sun in Sydney Botanic gardens..

Plant Mad Nige said...

Now then, young footwear person. This is a BIG thing and you've got a lot of serious decisions to make. You actually need at least 3 months to do half of it, so you'll spend days agonising over which bits to prioritise. I spent 10 weeks there in 3 week chunks, in 1995 and have been back a number of times since, so i'm happy to help with info.

First - the country is absolutely staggeringly, eyewateringly, blood-tinglingly beautiful. Barely a glance out of bus, train, plane or hotel window fails to give you a lovely view.

Namaqualand is well worth journeying up to, passing up the Western Cape as far, preferably, as Springbok and even the border with Namib at Nababeep. But if you can't get that far, Clanwilliam on West Cape almost as fab. BUT you need to do it first week in Sept.

Hermanus - essential; but there's so much more.

Kruger - cannot be missed. Don't be conned into the smaller private reserves - they're glorified wildlife parks, DO the real thing - fly to Nelspruit and stay at the Malelane Lodge, on the Crocodile River.

In fact you've inspired me to to a special blog posting on this very topic. Watch my post, coming up within 48 hours. `And don't book a thing until you've read it.

Gosh, how bossy I'm being. Disregard all the above, if you think fit.

Arabella Sock said...

Nigel you are absolutely wonderful! You can have all the huggywugs that I have been saving up for James should I ever bump into him! I can't wait for your blog. The first week in September tip alone is fantastic because I have been wondering which dates to pick.

Thank you, thank you.

Unknown said...

Dear Mrs. Sock, how exciting to hear that you plan to visit South Africa.I will send you inside information soon, but on one condition that you stop in for a cup of tea and scone with clotted cream on your way to Hermanus. We have three cats who will provide entertainment. Forget the Garden route and rather stick to R62 through the succulent Karoo. But as a start it would be Cape Town to see Kirstenbosch and the penguins at Boulders Beach, then to Hermanus via Bettys Bay, to see the Harold Porter botanical garden, then to McGregor for tea and a scone, then to Sanbona Nature Reseve near Barrydale,then ride an ostrich in Oudtshoorn (crap town but nice ostrich's) then up the Swartberg pass to Prince Albert. Then across to Addo Elephant Park and then down to PE to the airport.Doing the Cape and the parks in Mpumalanga is a bit of a rush, so you need to do one or the other. How exciting.

Helpmekaar said...

Here are some web sites that may intrest you.
if you are going to go to the Kalahari

The Constant Gardener said...

Plettenberg Bay! Plettenberg Bay!

(nobody's mentioned it yet so I thought I'd better.)

Combines both beach and whale watching: in fact we sat on the beach watching a mother southern right whale and her calf gambolling in the shallows. Without binoculars.

If you take a boat ride there are dolphins too...

Plant-watching opportunities are well-documented: Kirstenbosch was the most unforgettable for me and entirely unmissable.

Arabella Sock said...

Rodney - tea, clotted cream and scones AND three cats! What more could one want. I told the Bedsock we could ride ostriches - I'm not sure he was too happy at the prospect. LOL!

Thanks for all the tips and website links they are so useful. I just love holiday planning and tend to have everything down to the fine details before we leave and of course you can find so much on the web now. I'm off for a virtual tour around Plettenberg Bay now!

Helpmekaar said...

If you want to see Namaqualand then you may want to go up the N7 highway to Clanwilliam and stay at (Veepos Cottage is lovely), then to Calvinia and a visit to the Tankwa Karoo National Park, then down to McGregor for tea, then to Swellendam, Hermanus and back to Cape Town. Just remember about the soccer world cup in South Africa next year.I would hate the Socks to have to pay extra because your visit coincides with all the hooligans!

Carrie said...

First time here (shame) I instantly feel a great deal of envy. Best wishes on the holiday I hope it all comes to frutition, I guess I'll have to do with photos. Please take millions and post them.

Arabella Sock said...

Hi Carrie and welcome to the bloggywog. I'm going to spend the months leading up to the hols learning to use my camera properly!

Helpmekaar the first thing we did was check on the footie world cup dates to make sure we were nowhere near them. Hopefully the hooligans behaviour won't have made the Brits too unpopular by the time get there!

The Black Fingernail said...

Plettenberg is indeed the place for you.

When I was last there I saw a man dragging something out of the Indian Ocean onto a fairly well packed beach.

It was a shark! To be more accurate the shark that had just bitten his little lad, albeit not too badly.


aspidistra said...

One of the areas that sticks in my mind is the Cedarberg wilderness park, near Clanwilliam, simply because I went there in spring (around September) and it was just filled with wild iris and every kind of wildflower, a real riot of colour.

I found Namaqualand a tad disappointing, you have to hit it at the very precise time, and they do stuff like plough over fields to get colour the way we get colour from disturbed poppy fields.

Make sure you go down to the Cape of Good Hope and see the penguins at Boulder Bay and of course Kirstenbosch. Go up Table mountain at the first opportunity, because they don't run the cable car if it's misty, which can happen quite suddenly and it would be a shame to miss it, it's like a whole miniature world of fascinating plants when you get up there.

I also did a couple of the township/modern history tours in Cape Town which show you a very different side to life there if you are interested (sorry you didn't ask for that). I think I got the info for that from something like The Rough Guides. Going around some of the museums in Cape Town and doing those trips added something quite profound to my understanding of the history of SA.

Hermanus bay I thought okayish but it felt like being in California or somewhere, if you can whale watch somewhere quieter I would go for it.

Personally I'd consider just going north and more north, into Namibia, for some of the most profound desert scenery there is. But then I never did the garden route, so what do I know...

Helpmekaar said...

Dear Mrs.Sock, I would like to send you some information via snail mail.I could send it Poste Restante to your closest post office. Which post office is the most practical for you to collect letters from?

Diana Studer said...

Hi Arabella, will be linking back to this post tomorrow. With our South African ideas for you!

Diana Studer said...

And Aspidistra - the farmers plough fields for farming reasons. Skilpad reserve in Namaqualand is an abandoned farm being managed to return to a nature reserve. Given a chance our wild flowers will return to an abandoned field. They were there first.

aspidistra said...

I stand corrected Elephant's eye. It was Skilpad we went to, I just remember them saying that the fields were deliberately ploughed to get the flowers, not that it really matters.

I just had rather a strange experience there, I had had an expectation of a totally wild area, I didn't realised it was so managed and it felt a tad disappointing to me. Just wanted to warn the Socks of that possibility.

Diana Studer said...

to Aspidistra. Which way did you travel to Skilpad? We went via Leliefontein. High up in the mountains. A Methodist mission village far from almost anywhere. The truly wild flowers are all along the roads, and on the mountain slopes above the farms. Skilpad is coming on. We went when it was first opened. The second time we walked thru truly wild flowers, away from the fields.

great big bloomers said...

going to the kruger park then stop at Nelspruit botanical gdns complete with a man made rain forest!! also go to Graskop for the best pancakes in the world ,followed by atrip to "the three rondavalls" and on to "gods window for breathtaking scenery!!! in the kruger go to lower sabie camp best area for game in the park!!! also if you are into golf theres a 9 hole at skukuza camp i had to chip over an elephant!!!SA IS FANTASTIC AND YOU WILL LOVE IT

Rob Clack said...

Namaqualand is fabulous if you manage to hit the fortnight or so the flowers are actually out, but it's very hit and miss. If you don't get them, you might be lucky, as we were last Sept, if there's been more rain than usual (we were 250km NE of Cape Town) and there were carpets of wildflowers alongside the roads.

I love Cape Town (born in Jo'burg, lived in Kaapstadt from 5 - 12). Recommend Kirstenbosch Gardens, the Cape Point nature reserve, the drive from Hout Bay around Chapmans Drive and back into Cape Town.

Swimming at Boulders, south of Simonstown is good but in August/Sept the water will be far too cold - 16C. The water on the west of the peninsula is even colder!

There were decent restaurants in the modernised V & A harbour last time I was there a decade ago. No time last Sept.

Parts of the drive up the east coast are really fine, eg the Garden Route around Knysna. It's also well worth doing at least part of the route on dirt roads.

Port Elizabeth is a dump, but don't let that put you off the area. I don't know about game parks around there.

Hope you have a fantastic time!

Rob Clack said...

I also loved (and forgot to mention before!) the de Hoop nature reserve but not for the mammals, which were somewhat uninspiring. We drove right through and parked down at the coast. Walking through the rocks by the shore we came across enormous snails, chitons, starfish in the rock pools. Like snails as big as your fist! Presumably they're the size everything used to grow to until people started eating them. Amazing!

Oh, and see if you can't get hold of some barbecued karoo lamb. The biz. Miles better than Welsh, or saltmarsh, or any other lamb I've ever had. Fabulous!

Arabella Sock said...

Thank you again to everyone who has responded so helpfully! Although I love browsing through guidebooks there is nothing to beat personal recommendations. We have decided that we will probably go a bit later in the year, mid Septemberish, as I hadn't realised it might be quite cool earlier than that. I always have this idea that places are going to be hot and sunny and am invariably disappointed on that score. Our trip to Australia this time last year was just about the right temperature (mid 20s) in Sydney and then got quite cool and wet for quite a bit of the time as we toured NSW and Victoria. So whilst I am not bothered about lying on the beach and sunbathing like I used to, I do want a bit of warmth and sunshine.

I haven't had time to visit some of the blogs from those of you who have given me such good advice as we have had relatives visiting. I am saving the pleasure for a quiet day when I can peruse and dream of my holiday at leisure.